Romantic comedies will always have a special place in people’s hearts for many reasons. A lot of them may not have the grandest of plots, but they are still filled with love and the right amount of cheesiness. There’s just something about rom-coms that make you feel giddy as if you were a little kid again, no matter how exaggerated or left field the story gets. Beloved films like Notting Hill, 13 Going on 30, and The Apartment have made significant impact in the genre, the industry, in general, and the lives of hopeless romantics out there. Now that rom-coms are starting to regain their popularity, it’s nice to look back on the classics and see how much has changed and what exactly makes them great.
Much like other genres, the world of rom-com also includes subgenres which provide distinct elements. There’s fantasy, action, teen, and musicals. For the latter, we have been blessed with the likes of Mamma Mia!, Music and Lyrics, and Grease among others, all beloved films that later developed a cult following. This subgenre also includes romantic serenades where a man typically professes his adoration towards someone by singing or playing a song under that person’s window. There are a lot of films which have serenades, and most are usually done by the third act. However, there aren’t a lot of films that execute it well, or at least make people move because we already know how it often ends —someone sings to their loved one, the loved one is swayed, and they will live happily ever after. It’s a formula, and with so many rom-coms cropping up, it just means our standards are higher.
Nothing Tops 10 Things I Hate About You’s Serenade Scene
The thing is, despite a “rom-com renaissance” that’s been happening recently, there are little to no new films which possess the magic as the classics, especially regarding serenades. People would incessantly talk about the iconic “Grow Old With You” scene in The Wedding Singer and how incredibly romantic it is, to the point where that very song has become a wedding song for lots of couples. Then there’s the boombox scene in Say Anything where Lloyd (John Cusack) plays a song to Diane (Ione Skye) and they end up reconciling. These are great examples, but perhaps one of the best serenade scenes that left a big influence on the generation is the field scene in 10 Things I Hate About You.
Directed by Gil Junger, 10 Things I Hate About You is a 1999 rom-com loosely based on Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. We have Cameron (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a highschooler smitten with Bianca (Larisa Oleynik). In order to date her, he asks the help of Patrick (Heath Ledger). The deal is for Patrick to date Bianca’s cynical sister Kat (Julia Stiles) so that their dad can allow Bianca to date. However, what was originally just a paid bet, Patrick can’t help but to fall for Kat along the way. And despite Kat claiming she’s cold-hearted, she realizes that you can’t really run away from your feelings.
A high school film wouldn’t really be a high school film without prom. When Cameron pays Patrick more, he ends up doing one of the most iconic serenade scenes ever. Patrick goes to the bleachers, where we see Kat playing on the field. Then, he starts singing “I Love You Baby” by Frankie Valli —and the world basically stops. There, on the bleachers, Patrick serenades Kat to a love song with the help of a marching band. We see Patrick go up and down the bleachers, avoiding security, and sliding around, all the while singing in a way where you just know that there’s absolutely no way he doesn’t like Kat. Impressed with how far he goes, Kat laughs and lets a bit of her guard down. It’s also important to remember that there are many people in that field, so these students are probably confused that this tough and scary guy in their school just serenaded a tough and scary girl. But hey, it worked. The questions are: how and why was it so effective?
The Chemistry Between Patrick and Kat Is Off the Charts
Making a serenade scene work really all boils down to one essential element: chemistry. The field scene in 10 Things just exude sincerity, humor, and natural chemistry between the two main characters. We felt giddy when we watched that scene because there was already an established story behind them, we already saw how their dynamic works — even though it’s not initially friendly and romantic. They did the whole will-they-won’t-they thing so well, which is why seeing that serenade scene only adds to the charm of the film. We know that Patrick is technically only paid to get close to Kat, but him slowly wanting to hang out with her simply because he finds her fun shows that he’s genuinely falling for her.
Without proper pacing, a serenade scene would just feel insincere and rushed. You can’t just put two characters together and expect them to have chemistry right away; it’s developed. There’s that certain, intangible element that makes a serenade scene good. It heavily relies on the feeling —the feeling of longing, angst, amusement, adoration, and everything in between. The audience should feel as if they are the ones being serenaded. You want them to live vicariously through the characters. The plot may be good, but if the characters, may they be romantic or platonic, don’t command the screen well together, the serenade will not likely be as effective as expected. I mean, sure, Patrick and Kat can’t stand one another in the beginning because they both have prickly personalities, but them slowly getting closer just made the field moment wonderful to watch.
Plus, serenade scenes nowadays are simply just the person singing to a person. That’s just about it, really. There are just no serenades in films that’s as grand as the one in 10 Things. It’s a great reminder for filmmakers to let loose and just make something that’s cheesy, fun, and sometimes unrealistic. Ultimately, rom-coms exist to make people feel warm and happy. You don’t get that from heavier genres, and that’s what makes it special —it’s why people love to watch them, and it’s what rom-coms are here for!
We want more grand serenades in films where the person is just belting their hearts out to their crush in front of other people. We want a person going up and down the bleachers while being chased by security as they serenade the person they love. We want a famous singer to look into the eyes of that one person in the crowd as they sing a love song. We want a classic, boombox-over-your-head scene while the person’s parents are fast asleep. We want scenes that make us go, “I wish I was that person they’re singing to.” And we want serenades that may give us secondhand embarrassment. The way these serenades make you feel goes to show how these scenes completely elevate the stories — and we definitely need more of them. Even if they might not live up to Patrick Verona doing his best Frankie Valli impression.